The role of invasive alien species in shaping local livelihoods and human well-being: A review
MetadataShow full item record
Invasive alien species are a well-recognised driver of social-ecological change globally. Much research has focused on ecological impacts, but the role of invasive species for livelihoods and human well-being is less well known. Understanding the effects (benefits and costs) of invasive species on livelihoods and human well-being is important for guiding policy formulation and management. Here we review the literature on the role of invasive species in livelihoods to assess what is known, identify knowledge gaps and provide recommendations for future research. Literature was collected using key word searches and included both journal publications and grey literature. Slightly less than half (48%) of species studied had both substantial positive and negative impacts on local livelihoods (e.g. Australian Acacia spp. species; Camelus dromedaries; Lantana camara; Prosopis spp.), with 37% inducing mainly costs (Chromolaena odorata; Lissachatina fulica; Opuntia stricta) and 16% producing mainly benefits (Opuntia ficus-indica; Acacia spp.). Some species, such as Acacia dealbata, fell into different categories depending on the social-ecological context. Key benefits or services included the provision of fuelwood, fodder, timber and food products for local households communities and to a lesser extent supporting and regulating services such as soil improvement and shade. A number of species also provided cultural services such as recreation and spiritual values and provided many with an opportunity to earn a cash income. However, invasive species also harm livelihoods and increase vulnerability through encroaching on land and reducing mobility or access. They can also decrease the supply of natural resources used by households and reduce agricultural production (livestock and/or crops) which can result in losses of income and increased vulnerability. Furthermore, some invasive species were seen to have negative implications for human health and safety and reduce the cultural value of landscapes. Economic impacts on livelihoods as a result of invasive species were highly variable and very dependent on the social-ecological contexts. These negative implications can reduce resilience and adaptive capacity of households and communities thus increasing their vulnerability to change. Drawing on case studies we highlight that efforts for managing invasive species need to safeguard livelihood benefits while mitigating negative impacts. In concluding we highlight future research and policy needs on the topic of invasive species, livelihoods and human well-being.